Nick Clegg: 'We must do everything to ensure that we maintain a free, raucous, independent press'

The findings of the Leveson Inquiry should be supported as long as they are "proportionate", Nick Clegg told MPs today.

The Deputy Prime Minister said "business as usual" was not acceptable as he backed a cross-party approach to setting up a new system of press regulation.

He said there should be "independent" forms of recourse, sanction and accountability but the "raucous" nature of the press should be protected.

Standing in for David Cameron at Prime Minister's Questions, Clegg said: "I think everybody accepts, whatever their views about this, that business as usual is simply not acceptable.

"The status quo has failed and it has failed over and over again. The model of self-regulation we have seen over the last seven years has not worked when things have gone awry."

Answering questions from deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman he said: "We must do everything to ensure that we maintain a free, raucous, independent press. It's what makes our democracy and the country what it is.

"But also make sure that the vulnerable are protected from abuse by the powerful.

"That happened on an unacceptable scale on too many occasions.

"We need to be able to look the parents of Milly Dowler in the eye and say in the future there will be independent forms of recourse, sanction and accountability when things go wrong in the future."

Harman called on the Government to convene cross-party talks when Lord Justice Leveson's report was published.

"We need a strong, free press and we also need a proper system to protect people from being, as the Prime Minister said, thrown to the wolves," she said.

The Deputy Prime Minister said: "If his proposals … are workable and proportionate I think we should seek to support them. That is the whole point of the exercise.

"I also agree with you that we should work on a cross-party basis where we can. This is a major issue which escapes the normal, tribal, point-scoring of party politics."

Harman said: "We must have a press which reports the truth without fear or favour. But after all the evidence which came out during the inquiry, particularly from the Dowlers and the McCanns, we simply can't continue with the status quo: a press complaints system where a publication can simply walk away from the system and a system that is run by the press."

She added: "It would be a dereliction of our duty to allow the Leveson report to be kicked into the long grass."

Clegg said the Government had set up the inquiry "to seek out recommendations for change".

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